Marathi film: Samaantar

samaantar Of late, the wife and I have taken to watching Marathi movies in a big way. We loved the recent Atul Kulkarni starrer Natrang and the superb Harischandrachi Factory and some other older ones. So we decided to rent Samaantar.

Now, I don’t want to classify or bracket this movie as an art-house one. It was more than that. But I am still unclear about the precise topic of the film. Was it about a man who rose from the ashes (almost literally) to become successful and lead a full life? Or was it about a man who lived his life to recover his sense of family and then decided that he wanted to end it on his terms. Not mercy killing, not euthanasia, but death by choice. Suicide.

The film is well made with perhaps the best production value I’ve seen in any Marathi film. Amol Palekar and Sharmila Tagore are superb as is some of the support cast (Radhika Apte as the adopted daughter of Amol Palekar stands out along with Makrand Deshpande as the errant husband of a niece).

The story concept is a strong one. But the handling is not. There are far too many parallel tracks and the viewer is eventually lost in a maze of parallels indeed. While Keshav Vaze (Amol Palekar) tries to sort out his current life as the founder-chairman of a Fortune 500 company, he starts to think about life after work. And somewhere (rather suddenly), he has decided to end his life. Flashbacks from his early life are sporadic and don’t help create sympathy or empathy for the protagonist.

Sharmila Tagore plays Shama, Vaze’s true love. Since he left her (inadvertently or due to the situation in his life), she has taken to not speaking at all. Almost. Her bouts of speech are few and far in between, but one is left wondering about the missing drama here. For a woman not to have spoken coherently to anyone for years would mean a major incident has taken place. And it has. But it’s unfolded and wrapped up rather quickly without giving it too much importance.

The screenplay jars in places and eventually leaves you wanting more, but not because the film was so good, but because there’s a lot left unanswered.

The usual small detail one would expect from Palekar’s work is visible but in achieving this, he misses out on the big picture. That of telling one story well.

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